Desperados III, developed by Mimimi Games and published by THQ Nordic, is a real time tactical stealth game set in the old west. It’s a prequel to the first two games, though you don’t need to have played them to understand the story. The story follows John Cooper and company on what seems to be a quest for revenge. This is your prototypical story for games set in the Wild West, however it isn’t overbearing and doesn’t ruin the absolutely stellar gameplay. The entire game is from a top down perspective as well. Any of you who have played CRPG’s such as Baldur’s Gate know the camera angle quite well.
The story of Desperados III is told through short cutscenes at the beginning and ends of a mission. Though there are rare instances where some of it happens mid-mission. The camera angle doesn’t change during these which helps keep the transition between story and gameplay seamless. Even with these short bits of story, I found myself growing attached to the main cast of characters and wanted to see how the story would end. It’s not going to surprise you, but somehow doesn’t become boring either. Overall I found myself becoming attached to the characters. But the real enjoyment was found in the gameplay.
The main gameplay loop of Desperados III consists of sneaking through a level, avoiding the vision cones of the stationed or patrolling guards, and then taking them out quietly or sneaking past. You’re going to spend most of the game crouched. Each guard’s vision cone consists of two parts. There’s fully filled in green and lined green. The lined green means that they can only see you if you are standing. The shaded green means they can see you no matter what.
The difficulty selected: Beginner, Normal, Hard, or Desperado, effects how quickly the enemies are to see you when you enter the full green, or stand in the lined. The easier the difficulty, the more time you have to get through. Most missions have tons of bushes or buildings you can hide in. You can’t be seen in the bushes unless an enemy is right up on you, and you can’t be found in a building unless an enemy’s path goes through it. Some doors are connected allowing you to change the level you’re on by entering the building.
It is easy to miss a guard and their view cone. Luckily the game features a fast and simple quick save, allowing you to test a plan without consequence. The UI is set to automatically remind you when your last save was more than a minute ago, or after certain key mission points. There is the ability to turn this down or even off. However, I don’t recommend it. There’s nothing worse than getting through a part and forgetting to save just to be caught by an enemy and lose precious progress. The actions don’t normally take all that long to accomplish, but usually take awhile to set up. The point is to leave it on a one minute reminder.
The controls in Desperados III are simple enough. You control the characters with the left stick, crouch with B, use LB to change skills, and X to perform the skills. The game slowly introduces you to these through tutorials in the first few levels. It does a great job of slowly easing you into all the systems required to play the game at a high level. The only thing that takes getting used to is the camera. You move the camera with the right stick, but rotate/zoom the camera by holding RT and moving the right stick. During some of the early missions it’s easy to mess up and can be a little frustrating. However there really isn’t a better way they could have done it, and will be second nature by the mid to late points in the game.
Overall the controls work well enough. Though I don’t foresee the speed run community playing this game on anything but the PC. This is a bit unfortunate for reasons I’ll talk about later. But for the most part they’re fine and won’t work against you as you progress through the game.
During the course of Desperados III you pick up a few different characters, each with their own skills. The main character, John has the ability to throw coins which makes guards look a different direction, and the ability to throw his knife. This is one of the main quiet ranged attacks in the game. He also has dual pistols allowing you to shoot 2 guards at once. You also have Doc who uses a sniper and a doctor’s bag which can blind enemies.
There’s Hector, a burly man with an axe. He also has a bear trap which can kill enemies that walk into it, and the ability to whistle drawing guards near him. This is an obvious combo that will be helpful throughout the course of the game. Then you have Kate who carries a small pistol with a small noise radius making it easy to kill guards without alarming the rest. She also has the ability to distract male guards once she has a disguise. Finally, there’s my favorite companion, Isabelle. She can mind control guards and force them to shoot at their fellow allies. And she has the ability to link 2 guards meaning whatever you do to one, happens to the other.
By pressing up on the D-pad, you enter into showdown mode. This freezes time in all but Desperado difficulty. This allows you to plan one action for each character, such as John’s knife throw, and then perform them all at once. This is a necessary skill to master as it allows for the elimination of multiple guards at the same time. The best part, is it also allows you to carry the body to a hiding zone so you don’t have to manually do it for each. Once you hide the bodies they disappear from the map meaning that a passing guard won’t be able to see them in the bushes.
There are a few different types of enemies in Desperados III. There’s civilians who will report you if you kill an enemy in their view. There’s thugs who are basically the workers. Though they will attack you and sound the alarm if they spot you. There’s gunmen and gunwomen who will shoot you if they see you. However, all three can be distracted by Doc’s handbag, or by Kate in her disguise. The women can’t be distracted by Kate however. These three types will follow something suspicious as well.
Ponchos, men or women, will not follow suspicious activity. They keep to their station or patrol with great discipline. The male ponchos can be distracted though. Finally there’s the Overcoats and Patrol Dogs. They are the easiest to accidentally alarm, and the Overcoats are the toughest enemies in the game.
Every character has their strengths and weaknesses and can be used however you want during the game. Hector is the only enemy that can single-handedly take out an Overcoat, though you can take them out by shooting them and then stabbing them. I found myself favoring Isabelle and John as their combo of linking guards and throwing knives was super effective. But any way you want to play is available to you. Everything except going guns blazing.
Desperados III is first and foremost a stealth game. The characters with guns, everyone except Isabelle, has access to a limited number of bullets. There are ammo crates spread throughout the level, but the boxes are meant for a specific character only. You can see which ammo type it is by highlighting it. Thus weapons should only be used in certain circumstances. For one, they’re loud. Obviously. If you fire a weapon and a guard hears it, they’ll sound the alarm and bring new enemies out into the world.
I spent the majority of the game never firing a shot with anyone except Kate. As previously mentioned, she’s the only one with a “silent” pistol, and so will usually be okay when firing it. There was one mission where I used Doc’s sniper to great effect, but that was the exception, not the rule. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible or even not recommended to use guns, but it all depends on your play style. I preferred never bringing more guards in, and so usually went the quiet route.
At the end of the mission you get shown a still map of the area. Then you see your path through the map and where you saved, loaded, and killed guards. You are also shown what skills you used and when. This was a fun little touch to the end of the mission.
There are 16 different missions in Desperados III, with most occurring on a new map. There’s one map that’s replayed 3 times for story reasons, and one map that’s repeated twice. Though in each mission on those maps, you explore new areas so it’s not a problem by any stretch. All the different maps are varied in looks, feel, and sound. You will head from the mountains to a farm. From the desert to New Orleans. One mission takes place at a big manor. As mentioned, each map sounds different too. For instance, when you head into the swamps, it sounds like a swamp. The background music in each fits nicely as well, without becoming too loud and obnoxious.
The gameplay is also a bit different on each map. Some missions are at night allowing for easier sneaking. However there’s also lanterns that allow guards to see further. Some you can turn off which might make a guard suspicious enough to come check it out. Other maps, like New Orleans, have tiered levels. Thus you might have to scour the roof tops for enemies before taking out the ones below. Each of the missions themselves take awhile to complete as well. The first missions clocked in under an hour, but by the last few each were taking almost two. You can save and come back later though so there’s no real pressure to complete the mission in one sitting.
The game looks absolutely gorgeous as well. The top down camera angle does nothing to hurt it either. Each of the maps is designed stunningly and is a pleasure to look at. They’re all different from each other as well so half the fun of loading a new mission is to just see how the map is going to look.
14 of the 16 missions in Desperados III have 8 challenges attached to them. You won’t be able to see the challenges until after you finish the mission once, but they definitely can be difficult. Some of them require you to beat the mission on hard difficulty. Others require you to complete the mission under a certain time. As I alluded to earlier, this isn’t easy with a controller.
The others require you to only kill certain people, or finish the mission by taking a different path. Some missions have two distinct paths to get to the final part and they’re normally pretty different. One tends to be more tiered, where the other is spread out. This doesn’t mean one’s easier though. It just depends on how you want to play it.
Finally, there are challenges that unlock about midway through the game. These take you to the old maps, but require you to beat them in a specific way. One of them has you playing the first real map as just Isabelle, and wants you to kill every single enemy. Another wants you to kill enemies using only environment damage. These are a bit tougher than the main missions, but change up the maps enough to keep you from getting bored.
The achievements in Desperados III don’t unlock all that quickly, but most are just tied to killing a certain number of enemies with specific characters, or hiding a certain number of bodies. If you’re into hunting achievements just know it will take some time.
I did run into a few minor bugs in the game. Most were related to the subtitles not matching the spoken word. It only happened a few times, but was noticeable. It was also easy to get stuck on certain parts of the environment. Depending on the rotation of the camera, it might look like you can walk somewhere, but end up stuck on something. This was a problem when I was trying to quickly get to a hiding spot while a guard was looking away. That’s one of the main reasons to make sure to regularly save the game.
Desperados III was my first ever hardcore real time tactical stealth game and I definitely enjoyed my time with it. There’s no better feeling than creating a plan involving all the characters and implementing it successfully. The game looks and sounds absolutely wonderful. The gameplay is top tier. It’s well worth a purchase for anyone who enjoys stealth games. The different difficulties means and quick saves makes it playable for almost anyone.
If you would like to purchase Desperados III from the Microsoft store, you can do so here for $59.99. There’s a free trial for the game so I highly recommend checking it out if it sounds even remotely up your alley. Check out our other reviews here at Generation Xbox.
Note: We received a review code from THQ Nordic.